Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Sue Orfield Band

Pizza Plus.
Friday night.

I could almost end this blog now, because if you're reading you've probably already seen Sue in one or all of her bands and you've experienced the magic. But I'm a gal of many words and while I won't do The Sue Orfield Band (SOB) justice, I'm going to go ahead and give it a whirl. And because I've written about her before, here, here and here, I run the risk of repeating myself but I don't mind and I hope you won't either. And here's an added caveat: I'm heavily, blindly and passionately biased. I love Sue and I love her music.

As previously stated, I'm a lyrics gal. Words are the way I define, relate and make sense of my world. Don't get me wrong: I enjoy instrumental solos, but unless they're attached to lyrics and the emotions those lyrics evoke I can't easily ascribe emotion to purely instrumental music. Or so I thought, before I met Sue and her music. I'd love to get into her head. She seems to hear the world differently, like her relationship with music is tangible. It's almost as if a note is a syllable, a musical phrase a clause, a musical stanza a paragraph, and each song is a chapter in Sue's story. And can she write a story. What initially made Sue's music assessable to me was her obvious generosity of spirit when onstage. She's the opposite of a spoiled Diva. She radiates goodwill, patience, happiness and passion, and it was these qualities that encouraged me to step out of my musical comfort zone and listen to her music in a different way. But enough singing the praises of Sue (for now) and let me move on to the rest of the band.

The Sue Orfield Band is composed of Sue with her saxophone, her honey Randy Sinz on electric bass, Dave Schrader on drums and Mike Schlenker on lead electric guitar. (I wrote about Dave when he sat in with Mojo Lemon.  You can read about that here.)

They have three CDs out: “Bonk” "Now Let Us Sing" and their most recent, “Fight The Good Fight.” Sue has an earlier CD with another incarnation of SOB titled, “Nobody's Looking.”

People who tend to arrive to events fashionably late will miss out on good seats at a Sue Orfield event. I got to Pizza Plus a few minutes early and was darn fortunate to find a place to plant myself. SOB kicked the show off to an enthusiastic audience with an Orfield original, “Sway.” Mike Schlenker was all tall and aloof in his denim button-down collared shirt with an American flag on the back and matching American flag guitar. His playing is effortless and while he's usually pretty straight-faced, I caught him having fun several times. Randy was distinguished and smiling on his bass and Dave kept enthusiastic time behind his drums—though he was hard to see back there, he made his presence known. While I was able to write down a lot of the songs, I was too busy dancing and won't be able to offer blow-by-blows of the action. Suffice it to say that this band puts on a great show.

Other songs played Friday night include: “Same Kind of Crazy” and “Wild Me” Delbert McClinton songs, sung by Randy, Steve Goodman's “City Of New Orleans” sung by Dave, what I believe is a Mike Schlenker original, sung by him called—I think, “Good Work If You Can Get It” and a beautiful instrumental originally by The Youngbloods titled “Darkness, Darkness.” Randy sang “Unchain My Heart” and a Jimmy Rogers' song, “T For Texas” and the band performed the Harlem Globetrotters' theme song and the song from the Andy Griffith show. There were more Sue originals: “Inner Pippy” was dedicated to the family of Sue's first music student in Eau Claire who donated an alto Buescher sax to the band. Sue introduced two new songs, “Hope For The Girls” and “Mesa's Boogie.” She also performed “Herd of Rubies” and “Two Cats Named Bob.” (FYI, both Mesa's Boogie and Two Cats are about....cats.)

My personal highlights were when the band invited Gregg Wheeler and his harmonica onstage to accompany Randy as he sang a gorgeous song by Greg Gilbertson, a Chippewa Falls native, titled “The Gold.” I wrote about this song here. It gets better every time I hear it. And it rocked when Gregg Wheeler jammed on his harmonica to one of my personal favorites, Sue's “Atomic A Go-Go.” You haven't heard harmonica playing until you've listened to Gregg.

Later another local guitar player, Luke Fisher, was invited up and he sang his original cover of Cash's “Folsom Blues” and his own song, “5 AM.” They also sang happy birthday to Olaf Lind, another musician. Both Olaf and Luke join Randy and Sue to make up the band, AcoustiHoo.

All in all, it was well worth braving the snow and cold to hit this event. If you missed it, you can redeem yourself and catch Sue with Catya's Trio at From The Vine on February 14th and with Code Blue (Catya's 5- piece blues band) at Pizza Plus on February 21st. Be there, I guarantee you'll love it!

You can buy SOB's CDs here.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Peter Phippen and Rahbi Crawford at The Center

 Last night I went to The Center to listen to Peter Phippen on his flutes and Rahbi Crawford on her singing bowls. It was something I would not have experienced had it not been for this blog and I was honored to be invited.

The Center is a big, beautiful stone house between Eau Claire and Altoona on highway 12. Built in 1937 it has been a home to two families. Opening in October 2013, today it is a wellness retreat: “The Center is dedicated to supporting people in wholeness of body, mind and spirit, regardless of religious orientation.”

The Center  is the brainchild of Anita and her husband Scott. Anita is from Minnesota and Scott from Colorado and they met in Seminary in Colorado. He was a United Methodist Pastor for 20 years, which meant he and his family moved every 4-6 years. They have children and wanted something more stable and wandered back to Anita's roots here in the Midwest. Anita first opened The Bridge Creek Cottage, a crafting house in Augusta, then she and her husband opened The Center. Though it's only been operating for 3 months, it appears to have found a following. The Center offers pottery classes and art therapy classes, Positive Living sessions, reiki, yoga, meditation, family therapy, life coaching, ayruveda, Jungian therapy, spiritual direction and a garden club.

Scott gave me a tour before the show and told me, “It's all about the spirit and all [religious] traditions yearn toward that spirit. At The Center we honor all those traditions.” He went on to say that the dictum of The United Methodist Church is “Open hearts, open minds, open doors,” and that their work at The Center is an extension of this.

When I arrived there were only a few people and while The Center still feels and looks like a (very nice and well-appointed) house, the atmosphere was hushed, almost reverent. I caught one man in a dark side-room checking his cell and found myself glad I'd left my phone in the car, thinking that electronics had no place here. As more people wandered in the mood lightened and I saw a lot of cell phones. No one was chastised or struck by lightening. Scott and Anita were warm and welcoming and appeared pleased with the upbeat, friendly bustle of their guests.

This concert--The Center's first--was held in their yoga and mediation area, a round-ish, cork-floored room overlooking Otter Creek. It was dark and snowy, but I'm willing to bet that in the day the view is breathtaking. Guests were encouraged to take their shoes off so as not to damage the cork. The room was light and open with walls of large windows. The lighting was comprehensive without being intrusive and the room had a clean, natural, spartan feel accented by their “teak tree.” The tree is a graceful piece of teak, standing about 3 feet high with naturally branching shelves on which are placed symbols from all the primary religious traditions. There was seating for 49 people with rows of chairs set out in a semi-circle and cushions with Mexican blankets in the front on the floor all facing the teak tree. In front of the tree were Rahbi Crawford's crystal bowls and Peter Phippen's flutes. Every seat was full. I nabbed a place on the floor, off to the side so I could see both the audience and the show.

Scott came to the front of the room and talked briefly about The Center and said that this was their first concert and he was pleased and excited to have Peter and Rahbi. He also said that a couple of people had called and said they would be late and he was trying to wait for them. He then introduced Rahbi and Peter who, gracious and smiling, entered the room and spoke briefly of their work.

Peter is a grammy nominated flautist, known mostly for his work with Native American flutes, though he has flutes from around the world. Rahbi is a “sound healer” and she spoke of how the vibrations from her singing bowls correspond with our chakras—our body's energy centers. She went on to explain that the sound and the vibrations allows relaxation conducive for reprogramming our body, helping it let go of stress. She said that our bodies have memories of past injuries and pain and that sound therapy heals by allowing our body to let those memories go. She talked of her delight in working with Peter because his flutes “play between the notes” enhancing the healing power of the sound.

The realization that this was not going to be like other shows started creeping up on me. I've heard Peter's music. It's wonderfully calm and ambient. It encourages your mind to float into the blue world of Inbetween. Peter and Rahbi hadn't even started and I knew I was going to be lying down. I took a quick look around the room. Some people had grabbed blankets off the shelves and were all relaxed in their chairs, but I was the only one on the floor.

I watched as Peter sat cross-legged on the floor, microphone close to his mouth. He appeared composed and serene, all in black, his long, dark hair loose around his shoulders and brushed back from his face. His flutes were laid out on either side of him in velvet-lined cases. They are basic--primitive--and some are over 200 hundred years old. The woods shine with a veneer of age and use. He later let me hold them and some are crooked and heavy, others are almost magically light. They are all treasured.

Rahbi stepped into the circle of her quartz-crystal singing bowls and knelt. The big bowls are made of opaque crystalline glass and range from a foot to two feet high, all with different diameters. There were 10 of them. There were also 3 smaller, clear-glassed bowls and a pyramid composed of 8 crystal rods, 4 on the base forming the shape of a square and 4 rods standing on each corner of the square, reaching up and meeting in a peak. She only used the pyramid once, but the sound was both delicate and powerful. For the most part Rahbi used the big bowls. After some casual and very natural discussion about what the first song might be, they began.

I sat cross-legged on the floor watching them. Peter was in his element. His face was unlined as he breathed music into his flute, eyes closed, feeling the sound. He told me later that this music represents who he really is, how he is at home with his wife and his grandchildren. While he is a “rock n roll god” (my words, not his) in his local, commercial musical endeavors this is who he's matured into. This music is what is important. He spoke excitedly about his musical union with Rahbi, about how she is willing to travel with him to spread their music. He spoke of his gratitude to The Center for allowing him to come and share his music.

Rahbi is probably in her mid-50s and has short, dark hair, and glasses. Tall, slender and strong she wore a long nehru-collared tunic and dark pants. She knelt amongst her bowls, gracefully turning on her knees or twisting her body to reach the next note. She worked the bowls with little, rubber-headed mallots, sometimes flicking her wrist for a gentle “gooong” other times running the mallot-heads around the rim to sustain the note.

This was not music I could observe; it was music I had to feel. I unfolded the blanket I was sitting on and lay down. Closing my eyes I let the music wash over my body. Tendrils of flute flickered through my brain in soft ululations and gentle whistle-whispers. Ripples of bowl lapped at my consciousness as I drifted in the space between notes. At the end of that first song there was nary a rustle as the sound of the last note hovered in the air, slowly dissipating. Peter opened his eyes, signaling it was over and the room burst into applause. I looked around and saw another woman lying on the floor and smiled. I felt sorry for the other 47 people bound to their chairs.

The music continued for 3 hours. Between songs I would lever up, grab my little black reporter's book and scribble a note: “The Dreaming Tree.” “Egyptian Kawala flute, late 19th century.” “Animal sounds.” “A storm.” “Almost like playing 2 flutes at the same time.” “Haunting-happy.” “Nature epitomized.” “Skillful use of the microphone.” “Using his breath as music.” “Crown chakra.” “Heart chakra, Japanese flute, 1920s.” “Native American flute.” “Bindu chakra.” But as I left The Center I knew there was no way I would be able to piece my little words into a written description of the music from Saturday night. Because this isn't music you hear, it's music you experience.  It left me feeling energized and rejuvenated.

Peter's new CD, “Sacred Spaces” was just released and can be ordered here. Rahbi joins Peter on this recording. If this is your way, if this is your music, you have to get the CD and enter in to this music with them. You should also check out The Center. You just might find yourself.

To read more about Peter Phippen as Rock n Roll god, click here and here.

Sunday, January 12, 2014



The polar vortex lifted on Thursday and by Friday the night air was positively balmy. A whole raft of cabin-fevered sub-zero refugees eschewed the snow and hit From TheVine to see AcoustiHoo. We were amply rewarded.

AcoustiHoo is a 4-piece ensemble and I've written about each of its members at least once. And I will probably write about each of its members again. And again. And again. Full self disclosure: I've got a huge bias toward this band. I'm a fan. I also have a social relationship with some of the band-members. In my defense, the relationships developed because of their music, not vice versa. I don't know if this lends credibility to the blog, but I doubt anyone who hit From The Vine for AcoustiHoo would disagree with my assessment of the band.

The band members include Sue Orfield on tenor sax, Randy Sinz on upright bass, Olaf Lind on violin, and Lucas Fischer on guitar. Superlatives will be added later.

They shook off the residual vortex-chill with “Sweet Georgia Brown,” a lively country-Hee-Haw-like jig that set Olaf's violin-strings a-smokin'. They followed up with “2:15,” a Sue Orfield original which started out with a lovely violin solo. The intertwining of the sax and violin caused my chest to swell with inchoate nostalgia—a longing to return to a place I'd never been. The next song was “Kansas City” featuring Luke, who kicked the number off with a down-low-and-dirty blues intro. You haven't really heard this classic song until you've experienced Luke's version. Olaf's violin enhances it with a Kentucky-Mountain-Justified feel. Next up was “Az Du Furst Avek,” a traditional Klezmer tune in which Luke's solo evoked the feel of old-world gypsy music.

Are you getting it? Klezmer. Classic blues. 1920-era pop-songs. Originals. And that was just the first four songs. Next Sue called for “My Heart Belongs To Daddy.” They have a set list, but Sue once confided that she's not very good at sticking to it. Consequently there was a tiny pause, during which she said, “You'll pick it up.” And they did. She blew Cole Porter's song like the May West-sultry, old-time jazzy tune it was meant to be. If her soul had a mirror, it would be the music coming out of her saxophone. Luke cooled us down with one of his originals, “Close,” a slow, sweet love-ballad and Olaf and Sue harmonized on “Ashoken Farewell” a Jay Ungar tune that left me remembering a childhood I'd never had.

Randy, all dapper behind his bass in a black beret, called the next song: “Fever.” I love, love, love the way Randy sings this song. It's new to their repertoire and there's no question that it's a love song between him and Sue. In the song he sings, “My heart burns for Sue,” and Sue's saxophone lets us know her heart burns for Randy.

Looking around From The Vine over the break I saw that it was standing room only. The establishment is owned and operated by Kathy Nuenke and has been open about 2 and a half years. It's long and open, and the lighting is perfect—low, without being dim. There's a bar running down one side and two- and four- top tables. The musicians are set up the middle of the place, in a living-room-style set- up with couches and deep, comfortable chairs. Behind the musicians is a half-wall and there's a darker, more secluded area in the back. It's a great place for music: avid fans can sit comfortably in a front row seat, music fans who prefer to socialize can sit at the tables in the bar area and lovers can cuddle in a dark corner. The service is fabulous; attentive without being overly friendly. They know you're here to see music or appreciate their wine or catch up with your friends, not to make new best friends with the staff. As soon as you come in you get a glass of water and it's easy to find a waitress when needed. They stock over 80 different wines and Kathy is always changing her stock. She offers wines by flight (I didn't know what this was and had to google it: tastings of multiple wines, which allow tasters to get a feel for breadth or depth of the selection), monthly wine tastings and wine and painting classes. I don't drink so I try to support local music venues by ordering food. I thought this would be a challenge in a wine room and was tickled to see From The Vine offers Legacy Chocolate truffles. They've also added snack mixes and a cheese-and-crackers plate. I spoke to Kathy, briefly, and while I can count the number of times I've been there on both hands, she remembered me. This wine room is a solid music venue and offers great service with great music.

AcoustiHoo's second set offered a couple of pleasant surprises. After Luke's cover of Tom Waits' “Make It Rain,” Sue called Gregg Wheeler with his harmonica to the stage to accompany the band on one of Randy's originals, “Desert Blue.” Randy's voice-as-instrument is wonderful and Gregg's harmonica was about as smooth as it gets. Gregg stayed on stage for another of Sue's originals and there was some fun call-and-response between his harp and Sue's sax. Olaf put down his violin in favor of the mandolin. After Gregg sat down the band launched into another Sue Orfield original, “Can't Shake The Sadness,” all forlorn and noble, with a classic violin-solo and delicate harmonic interplay between Luke and Olaf. Sue stood back, listening, an appreciative smile on her face. Olaf then performed his original “Caravans,” a lively tune with an old-world feel. I understand they're working on a music video for this song. Luke performed another original, “5 AM Blues,” all smooth, romantic and slow rhythm & blues-y.

Then Catya, my very best friend in the whole world, was asked onto the stage where she performed one of her originals, “I Like It.” Though it was unrehearsed, there was an ease and enjoyment on that is only seen when really good musicians play together.

The next number was “Bouf Chonsko” a Macedonian folk song. I spelled it phonetically and know it's wrong. I call it “The Clapping Song.” It starts up slow and every time around they speed it up just a little bit until they're playing faster then we can clap. So fun. Another Sue original, “Cut From Terry's Cloth” was next. The final number was Luke's amazing version of Donovan's “Season Of The Witch.” Luke played his guitar like a mandolin, Olaf played his mandolin like a guitar and Randy tried to play his upright like a violin and did a great job of playing it like a guitar. Sue's saxophone tied the whole song together and as the last note died away the audience leapt up in a spontaneous standing ovation. It was a magical night that left us all wanting more. 

If you're reading this blog you must be a music fan. Believe me when I tell you that if you haven't seen AcoustiHoo you're missing out. Big time. Check them out—you can find their self-titled CD on their website,  look them up on Facebook or catch them live.  You won't be disappointed. Promise.

You can read more about Sue and Randy as Two Rivers here.
You can read more about Sue, Randy and Catya in Catya's Trio here.
You can read more about Gregg Wheeler in Stage Fright and Randy, John and Gregg here and here.
You can read more about Olaf and Luke in Eggplant Heroes here.
You can read more about Luke as a solo act here.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Crystal and the Commotion

Saturday night I braved the cold and drove the 3 miles to the Red Zone to see Crystal and the Commotion. The Red Zone is owned by Randy Kuhnert and sits off old 53 in Hallie along the access road. The building used to house various failed Mexican restaurants and the barhas been open for about 4 years. The Red Zone is a party bar and during the summer you find it by following the glitter of chrome bouncing off the Harleys in the parking lot. Randy used to be my mechanic and I remember spotting him at various music events before he opened the bar. He wasn't watching the music, he was watching the audience. Unlike many area bars hosting live music, part of Randy's vision for the bar included bands. There was plenty of leather at The Red Zone on Saturday night, but it also appears to be a destination—or at least a stop-off point—for snowmobilers too.

The band's website describes them this way:
Crystal and The Commotion is one of the hardest working, high energy groups in the state of Wisconsin. Featuring vocalist Crystal Dolivo. Peter Phippen, former Airkraft bassist and 2010 Grammy Nominated artist. Guitarist Scott Milz and Drummer Michael Hucek. From Street dances to Corporate events and Casinos to Clubs, you can expect great music from the 60's 70's 80's 90's and today.”
An apt description.

They kicked off the night with with a lively version of “Walking On Sunshine.” Peter and Scott stepped out from behind their microphones and walked into the audience with their cordless bass and electric guitar. Crystal's mic is also cordless and she made sure we knew that the whole bar would be her stage. Other songs in the first set included:Pat Benatar's “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” Alanis Morrisette's “Hand In My Pocket,” Lambert's “Mama's Broken Heart,” Sugarland's “Stuck Like Glue,” Bob Seger's “Old Time Rock & Roll” Christina Aguilera's “Beautiful,” Cindy Lauper's “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” Nancy Sinatra's “These Boots,” Lorde's “Royals and Poison's “Talk Dirty To Me.” Highlights of the first set were when Crystal totally hammed it up on “I Will Survive” and when she and Peter did a great version of June and Johnny's “Jackson.” But my favorite was when Scott Milz, the guitar player, sang the straightest version of “Sweet Caroline” I've heard in 20 years. No kidding, there wasn't even a whiff of irony and—oddly—it worked.

Crystal is a bundle of energy and demands audience participation. She wanders the bar, microphone in hand, singing directly to people and encourages them to sing refrains with her. Her eye-contact is frequent and direct and she doesn't miss a thing. She sees who's coming in, who's leaving, who's engaged and who isn't and she'll call out greetings between verses without missing a beat. She's a 5-foot, blond, bundle of energy as she dances, poses and postures. During her band mates' solos she wanders around, touching bases with the audience and Saturday night she hoola-hooped with a couple of her friends. She's just 22 years old, but she works the bar like a professional and she's got that 90s “girl band” voice.

Peter Phippen looks like he's having a great time playing rock-&-roll, bass player god. His face is set in a half-smile, half-sneer and he closes his eyes. In the second set he was smile-snarling with eyes closed and his mic got knocked over into the drum set. No one noticed (except me). Crystal was singing and turned to the drummer, Michael Hucek, and saw the mic. Peter was still jamming with his eyes shut. Crystal didn't blink and—still singing—righted it and turned the mic toward Peter, just in time for him to come in with his back up vocals. (You can read more about Peter here.)

Scott Milz is straight-faced and earnest. He's got a good, true voice and is a great guitarist. He watches Crystal closely, like he's not sure what she's going to do next, but he doesn't seem worried. He just wants to be on top of things.

The drummer, Michael “Slant” Hucek, sits behind his kit like a king, orchestrating it all with a satisfied look on his face. If he's irritated with Crystal's antics, he takes it in stride like an indulgent uncle.

Another highlight of Saturday night's show featured Scott and Michael. The band played Black Sabbath's “Paranoid” and the audience liked it so much that Scott and Michael did an impromptu version of “War Pigs.” They were in their element—not playing for the audience, but for themselves-and for a moment we were all transported back to 1970.

This is a working band. They're fast-paced, diving into the next song almost before the last note of the previous song has settled. There's no need to clap because there's no room for applause between numbers. They're about giving the audience and the person who hired them bang for the buck. Slick and professional, they advertise as a high energy band and they deliver.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Randy Sinz, John Lynch and Gregg Wheeler

Jean and Charlie live across the street and two houses down from me. They're my aunt and uncle. For years we've been “giving” each other live music as gifts. This Christmas their present was Randy Sinz, Gregg Wheeler and John Lynch. On Sunday I hopped into my little Beetle, putted down the street, picked up Jean and Charlie and we headed to Fanny Hill for dinner and music.

I've seen this trio three times, all at Fanny Hill. The first time was last summer, out on the deck and—if I remember correctly—it was a spur of the moment thing. Randy was asked to fill in for a last minute cancellation. He invited two old friends to play with him. I knew their music would appeal to Jean and Charlie and when I saw they were playing the weekend after Christmas I heaved a sigh of relief: Here were two presents I wouldn't have to cruise the mall for.

Fanny Hill is pretty formal. The room is elegant, with cloth-covered tables, candles, ornate winter-themed decorations and twinkly lights draped around windows that offer a bird's eye view of the river. The atmosphere is hushed and I feel like I need to don my best table manners. The music on Sunday night, on the other hand, was just the opposite. Relaxed and casual, these three men made us feel like we were all kicking back on a summer porch. Three old friends, comfortable with each other and the music and pleased to be sharing that music with their friends, the audience.

I've written about Randy Sinz before. He and his partner, Sue Orfield, are staples in the local music scene and we are darned blessed to have them. He plays with Rada Dada, TwoRivers, The Sue Orfield Band, Catya's Trio, Code Blue, AcoustiHoo, and Ranger Rudy and the Swingin' Wingtips. You can read about him here and I'll write more about Randy and his other bands in the future. He's known locally for his work on the electric and upright bass, but he's equally good on the guitar and has a fine voice.

Gregg Wheeler hit my music radar last year when he played during AcoustiHoo's CD release party at The Stone's Throw. He's an artist on the harmonica and he totally blew me away. Jean and Charlie were at that gig too and after Gregg left the stage Charlie told Gregg that he'd always wanted to play the harmonica. I'll be darned if Gregg didn't reach into his front shirt pocket, pull out his harp and give it to Charlie. Charlie was delighted and while he hasn't started blowing, he insists he will learn when he retires. Earlier this winter Gregg and Aunt Jean ran into each other at a funeral and discovered they had family and friends in common. Gregg arranged to play at the assisted living home where Jean's mother lives. Since then, Gregg has been emotionally-adopted into my family's music-favorites. He also plays guitar and sings. Gregg has a relatively low music-profile, but this will be the third time I've mentioned him in my blogs. You can read more about Gregg here and here.

I'm not as familiar with John Lynch. Back in the day he played with The Better Half. He also plays with Ranger Rudy and the Swingin' Wingtips. He used to play with The Memories, but said he stopped in 1988. He was married with a new child and he decided to leave the road. The Memories are still together and still gigging. John plays the guitar and writes and he offered a sample of some of his originals at Fanny Hill on Sunday night.

There is no consolidated set list. They take turns calling the next song, working in rounds and for the most part, the guy calling the song also sings it. Most of the songs are familiar to all three, but it's not unusual for one of the guys to bring a song that they haven't played together. John started it off with Charlie Pride's “Is Anybody Going To San Antone.” John and Randy played acoustic guitar and Gregg alternated between his electric guitar and harmonica. Gregg commandeered a tray stand and had his aluminum harmonica case open in front of him and throughout the night he seamlessly switched between instruments. He followed the Pride song with Merle Haggard's “That's The Way Love Goes,” and Randy picked up his fretless acoustic/electric bass and countered with a rousing version of Hank Williams' “Jambalaya.” John chose a hilarious song by David Tanner titled, “Effingham:”
She's gone to Effingham yeah she took the Effing kids
and hit the Effing road
in her Effing mini van
and now I'm sitting here alone
and I don't Effing understand
why my baby's Effing gone to Effingham”

This song brought out a bout of silliness from Randy and John and while Gregg tried to bring it back with George Jones' “Tall Tall Trees,” Randy acted drunk and sang a parody of “Green Green Grass Of Home” and John answered with his parody, “Blue Hairs Driving In My Lane.”

Part of the fun of this trio is the twinkle in John's eye when he's being outrageous. He's a wonderful songwriter, too, and he sampled some of his originals Sunday night. “Outkicked Your Coverage” is a lively song he wrote offering fatherly advise after meeting his son's girlfriend:
“You've outkicked your coverage
You're way over your head
That little filly you've been seeing is a full-grown thoroughbred
You've outkicked your coverage
Don't take it personally
On a scale of 1 to 10, she's about a 23.”

The song “Bad Day Of Fishing” is a sweet song, written about his father after he retired:
“Tells the fish 'this is your lucky day'
Then tosses it back to swim away
When he goes home at the end of the day
He'll dream about the one that got away
A bad day of fishing still beats
A good day at work.”

“They're Bailing Out Wallstreet” sounds a protest to today's politics:
“They're bailing out wallstreet
What about mainstreet
Don't forget about the man with the calluses on his hands
He's trying to make ends meet
Ain't living on Easy Street
It's time to take a stand and be the conscience of this land.”

And then there's the “Cookies” song: “Homemade cookies sure make the coffee taste better!” I gotta tell you, this man sure likes cookies.

Randy sang “Crazy Arms” for Charlie, “Ain't No Sunshine” for Jean and “Unchain My Heart” (now known as “The Bag Of Beans Song”) for me. He also sang Santana's “Evil Ways,” Gary Stewart's “Empty Glass” and a song his father, Jerry Sinz also a musician in the band, The Dairyland Ranch Hands, sang called “Candy Kisses.”

Other songs included George Strait's “Amarillo By Morning,” The Casino's “Then You Can Tell Me Good-Bye,” Buck Owens' “Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy,” and Mark Chesnutt's “Rolling With The Flow,” and “Wagon Wheel” all sung by Gregg. During Marvin Rainwater's “Gotta Find Me A Bluebird” Gregg got the audience whistling. He also did one of his standards—and my favorite—Marty Robbins' “Devil Woman.” I love watching Gregg. He feels the lyrics. I admitted later on that I kind of crush on him when he sings and plays the harmonica. There's such earnestness and feeling.

The three musicians met in high school and have been playing with each other, off and on, since then. Their level of comfort, their communal approach, and laid-back style works wonderfully and brings us back to a simpler time. Over one of the breaks John Lynch said, “Some people load up their golf clubs in the car, we load up our instruments. I'm just thankful that places like Fanny Hill let us come out and do this.” They will be playing every other month at Fanny Hill and I can't imagine a more pleasant way to wile away a cold, winter Sunday evening.

Finally, I offer a nod to another Chippewa Valley Music blog, Freaks and Geeks.  The Dairyland Ranch Hands link goes to his site.